My, how the world has changed. Three years after Apple Computer’s October 2001 introduction of the iPod, the company famous in technology circles for its Apple ][ and Macintosh personal computers is arguably even more famous in the mainstream for its portable music players. And while the bi-annual Macworld Expo – the American exposition of new Apple and third-party hardware and software – seems to shrink with each passing year, the presence and importance of iPod developers within that expo continues to grow.
Leading iPod accessory vendors including Belkin, Dr. Bott, Griffin, iSkin, Marware and XtremeMac have rapidly expanded their Macworld Expo San Francisco show staff and floor space to accommodate new product lines, each seeking to broaden its offerings to provide more complete solutions to iPod owners’ needs. Last year’s smaller iPod vendors – TEN Technology, Eroch Studios of LiliPod fame, and MacMice, as examples – now have two, three or four times their previous number of offerings on display.
Some consolidation of even smaller vendors’ better offerings into large companies’ distribution networks is evident. Key case manufacturers are moving to sell plug-in iPod hardware developed by newly hired staff or smaller Asian affiliates. Larger companies are seeing executive-level changes, as evidenced by the just-announced movement of former Griffin Vice President of Marketing and Design Andrew Green to a similar position at rival Digital Lifestyle Outfitters.
And yet Macworld’s tent is getting smaller. On the heels of its announcement months ago that it would shrink the venue at its summer Boston Macworld to create a cozier atmosphere for the decreasing number of attendees and exhibitors, expo host IDG has now shifted the San Francisco show’s primary exhibition floor entirely into a single tent at Muscone Center South from its previous two-tent Muscone North and South spread. A few vendors are in smaller booths, or appear not to be represented on the floor at all. Though corporate inbreeding hasn’t recently been foreign to the world of Apple third-party development, the gene pool looks – but perhaps only looks – smaller inside Macworld’s convention hall.
New excitement and new blood may well be needed. And it is anticipated that lower-cost Apple products to be announced for release this year may begin that process. iLounge will be reporting live from Macworld Expo San Francisco all week with the details.